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Diesel Dupe
VW’s Not the Only One Fooling Car Tests

The ripples from the VW cheating scandal have spread far these last two weeks, and the fallout isn’t over yet. According to a new study from the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, a significant gap exists between the mileage American cars demonstrate during federal testing and the mileage they actually get during road conditions. And, researchers warn, that gap has widened.

The study found that engine efficiency in U.S. cars was overestimated by roughly 15 percent from the 1990s into the 2000s, but that over the last three years that same metric was off by between 23 and 25 percent. In other words, the newest cars on the road could be providing consumers around a quarter less mileage than their manufacturers—and federal regulators—claim.

This isn’t just a story of false advertising; lower gas mileage means higher greenhouse gas emissions and more local pollutants. Reuters cites a study released two years ago by the International Council on Clean Transportation, in which researchers found that the gap between cars’ emissions on the test track and those on the actual road more than quadrupled from 8 percent in 2001 to 38 percent in 2013.

It seems Volkswagen owners aren’t the only ones out there being duped.

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  • Boritz

    This is not news. The EPA mileage sticker in the windshield on the car lot was never believed to be accurate by the informed public that calculates their own mileage at fill-up time.

  • Gene

    You can hit your car’s mileage estimates, but usually only if you drive in a very restrained manner with constant attention to minimizing fuel use in every situation. And even with such attention the best-laid plans are easily undone when driving in certain types of terrain or other conditions. In my newest car I’ve hit its highway mileage rating ONCE in 3 years. (Oddly, my older car from 2002 comes far closer to its EPA estimates without need for hypermiling on my part.) Needless to say, driving that way also sucks a lot of the joy out of being behind the wheel. I also track my mileage carefully and note that my car’s calculation of its own MPG is typically 1-2% higher than reality.

    • Fat_Man

      My Honda Accord V6 Has an EPA rating of 21/ 34 mpg. And I pretty much get it even though I can’t drive 55. If the EPA numbers meant anything to anyone, no one would buy SUVs which have terrible EPA numbers even when they come with dinky 4 cylinder engines. This whole thing is about inside the beltway B$. The only people who care are chauffeured around in big black SUVs and fly around in their private planes.I will think there is a real problem when they start acting like there is a real problem.

  • Andrew Allison

    For the record, the VW scandal is about emissions, not mileage. Performance is improved at the cost of higher emissions when the defeat mechanism is off. The disconnect between EPA mileage and the real world is a completely different story.

  • Pait

    On the other hand… my 2002 VW always gets significantly better mileage than the EPA estimate. I always thought that the tests overestimate mileage for automatic cars and underestimate mileage for cars with manual transmissions.

  • ljgude

    We think we want safe, environmentally friendly cars, but we really want cars that go fast and are fun to drive. I applaud VW for giving people what they want.

  • Rick Johnson

    Maybe the problem here is the EPA. Maybe you should be getting rid of a usless dysfuntional government agency whose sole purpose appears to be to kill growth. Maybe Americans would be much better off without it.

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